Our team

Dr Etienne van der Walt

BSc, BMedSc, MBChB, MMed (Neurol)




Etienne is a consulting cognitive neuroscientist and head of cognitive neuroscience at Neurozone™. His understanding of the brain is substantiated with a 14-year career as a neurologist, deeply rooted in the development, performance and physiology of the brain. As an expert in developmental cognitive neuroscience, Etienne founded AmazingBrainz™, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the design of programmes for the brain stimulation of young, developing children – especially in disadvantaged communities. Etienne has worked as a neurologist in South Africa, the UK, and the Netherlands, currently teaches neuroscience to medical students at the University of Stellenbosch, and speaks to diverse audiences of professionals, educators, and parents about the amazing human brain.

Susara Nortje





Since 2008, Susara has co-ordinated the development of education, health and social development programmes for AmazingBrainz and has lead the team since 2011. She is a trained teacher with 27 years of experience who has written numerous textbooks and assessment portfolios and is well-equipped to facilitate the development of AmazingBrainz’s training programmes.   Susara is a gifted networker who has valuable experience in compiling and managing multi-disciplinary teams and broader networks of service providers.

Prof. Wynand van der Merwe

MBChB, MMed (Anes), FFA, MD




Wynand is an anaesthetist and Professor of Health Sciences and Director: Sustainable Development at Stellenbosch University. He has been instrumental in the expansion of capacity of the Ukwanda Centre for Rural Health to establish a rural clinical school in Worcester – the first of its kind in South Africa. Previously, Wynand served as an Independent Non-Executive Director of Mediclinic International Limited for over 10 years and has also chaired the Deans Committee of South African Medical Schools. He has been a director at AmazingBrainz since 2012.

Dr. Rina Smith

BSocSc, Hons BA (Psych), DPhil




Rina is a qualified social worker and an expert in community development.  She is also an accomplished mentor who has mentored our team and countless social workers during her many years with Hugenot College in Wellington.  She is a strategic thinker who brought us to the realisation that the solution to poverty lies in Early Childhood Development (ECD).  Rina is also a qualified assessor and moderator and develops training materials for AmazingBrainz.   

Marianne Rousseau

BA (Socio)




Marianne is an experienced industrial relations specialist who has worked in the mining, financial, construction, motor manufacturing and agricultural sectors.  Marianne has a particular gift for building human resource capacity and for organisational development, as well as being able to provide mentoring and coaching in this regard.  She is a strong networker and also brings unique insights and an understanding of the complexities of accredited skills training in South Africa.  

Johannes Brand

BSc Agric


Financial director


Johannes has worked for over 20 years in various capacities within exotic vegetable and fruit production in southern Africa.  He holds a BSc in Horticulture and Agricultural Economics from Stellenbosch University. Johannes has a passion for development of individuals and communities through sustainable business and lends strong strategic guidance for project planning and financial management. 

Monique le Grange

BSc Agric, MSc Agric




Monique studied horticulture at the University of Pretoria and Stellenbosch University and worked for 8 years in the technical and commercial areas of fresh fruit exports in South Africa, Canada and Belgium.  A year as a volunteer with a mission hospital in the Republic of Congo was part of a life-change that stirred her heart to return to South Africa and contribute to social change.  She has been with AmazingBrainz since 2012 and is responsible for operational management.

Jeanne-Louise Uys



Whole Child Development


Jeanne-Louise studied law at the Stellenbosch University and then completed Post Graduate Certificate in Education.  In 2006, she began working with Dr Etienne van der Walt and was instrumental in developing the AmazingBrainz Day Programme.  She currently teaches at a pre-school, applying the programme practically and working very closely with our Occupational Therapist and other experts to further refine AmazingBrainz' programmes and training materials.

Carla van der Merwe

B Occ Ther, M ECI


AmazingBrainz trainer


Carla is an Occupational Therapist with a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Intervention.  She spent a number of years working as a Senior Occupational Therapist for the state before working in private practice.  She was instrumental in developing the AmazingBrainz Early Stimulation Programme and co-developed the AmazingBrainz Day Programme along with Jeanne-Louise Uys.  Carla is an AmazingBrainz trainer.

Marisse Dowell-Ellis

B Ed


AmazingBrainz trainer


Marisse graduated cum laude with a degree in Foundation Phase Education from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT, Wellington).  She is an experienced teacher and remedial therapist and is also a trained classical pianist.  Marisse's passion is working with women in marginalised communities, equipping them with the skills they need to help young children succeed in education.  She is an AmazingBrainz trainer.  

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Sarí Stegmann

BHHP, BA Sports Science, PGCE, B Ed Hons


AmazingBrainz trainer


Sarí has degrees in Sports Management and Sports Science from the University of Tennessee in the USA and Stellenbosch University.  She has a minor in Psychology and has played and coached tennis at various levels for many years.  Sarí later moved into the teaching domain and obtained her Post Graduate Certificate in Education and her honours in remedial therapy.  Aside from the two young boys she has at home, her passion is working with and making a difference in the lives of other pre-school children too.  Sarí is an AmazingBrainz trainer.